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    Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Intro}

    January 12, 2010 by Brandy Vencel


    The Introvert Advantage:
    How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

    by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

    The purpose of this first introductory post is to get a few things out of the way. You know the drill: disclaimer, caveat, basic definitions. I was glad to see a few of you had read, or at least heard of, the book, for the conversation will be much more lively! However, I suspect that this blog is haunted by introverts, so this could be interesting, even if you haven’t read it.

    This brings me to The Disclaimer: I am an introvert. I already knew this before I took the cute little quizzes in the first chapter. Last night, I decided to quiz my husband, who I already knew was this weird blend of both extroversion and introversion. The extrovert in him came out when I was testing the waters.

    “I took a quiz in this book to confirm I’m an introvert,” I said.

    “You did?” he replied, eyebrows raised. “How bad is it?”

    How bad is it? Of course, I made a big display over such a comment, for that was what he wanted: “What? You think introversion is a disease?” And, naturally, he smirked at me.

    To be fair, he had a right to ask me how bad it was because, truth be told, I’m about as introverted as a person can get while still falling within the realm of “normal.” I think people who are more introverted than me usually are labeled with some sort of social disorder, but I could be wrong about that.

    Ahem.

    The point here is that all writers have a bias, and mine is that I’m an introvert reading a book about introverts. I try to counter my biases by reminding myself to read things biblically, logically, and in conversation with others. That last part is where you all come in.

    The Caveat probably won’t surprise you all, either: I have angst. In this particular situation, I have a very tense relationship with all things psychological. At its core, I believe that modern mainstream psychology {but not every individual practicing psychologist} defines man {as well as his salvation} in a way which is in conflict with the Bible. This is why I don’t read a ton of psychology-type books. However, this doesn’t mean there is nothing a Christian can learn from reading a book like this, and that is what I plan to do. But the angst is real, and there is some history behind it, and introvert or no, Holy Scripture is still the highest authority when it comes to defining man, his purposes, his needs, and his remedies.

    And now, it is time for the basic definitions I’ve gleaned from the early pages of the book. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but typically books define terms early on and use them throughout. So, naturally, we need to know what an introvert really is. Dr. Laney writes:

    [I]ntroversion and extroversion are on opposite ends of an energy continuum. Where we fall on that continuum predicts how we derive our life energy. People on the more introverted end of the continuum focus inward to gain energy. People on the more extroverted end of the continuum focus outward to gain energy.

    Perhaps the most important word in the above paragraph is energy. This book appears to be all about energy in that it identifies both introversion as well as extroversion in terms of energy sources, levels, and so on. So, in case Dr. Laney’s point wasn’t clear, I will give you my own definition: introverts are energized by being alone. This is overly simple, and the quizzes in the book identify a set of characteristics that go beyond this single sentence, but the fact remains that introverts thrive on Quiet Time.

    I already knew this, but I was pretty clueless about the more extreme extroverts. I was shocked to realize that they find Quiet Time to be energy-draining. Doesn’t everyone need a nap after spending time with other people?

    Ahem.

    Dr. Laney gives three major characteristics which distinguish introverts from extroverts:

    1. Introverts are “energized by the internal world–by ideas, impressions, and emotions.”
    2. Introverts are easily overstimulated {by crowds, noise, too much in the schedule}.
    3. “Introverts like depth and will limit their experiences but feel each of them deeply.”

    In contrast, extroverts seek out lots of stimulation, she says, almost as if they could feed on it. Extroverts like variety, they like to sample the world, they seek breadth over depth.

    My personal opinion is that most people are somewhere in between. I am a pretty extreme introvert, have only met a handful of folks as introverted as me, and even fewer people who are very extreme extroverts. So, when Dr. Laney is setting up the opposite ends of the spectrum, she also reminds us that many folks fall in the middle.

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    14 Comments

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Emily, You gave me a thought when you explained how your extroverted daughter helps you to meet people: this is why God didn’t make only introverts. I know that shyness is not exactly the same thing as introversion. However, introverts are probably more likely to be shy, and relationships with introverts take a longer time to develop. It seems to me that extroverts often cross the initial relational hurdles for us. This is often how I meet people, either my husband introduces me, or one of my children strikes up a conversation. I wonder how many relationships I wouldn’t have had I not extroverts in my life.

    Ellen, I did not grow up in a homeschooling environment, but I can see how what you are saying could be true. I am inclined to agree with you, also, because my own theory I am formulating is that either extreme (extreme extroversion and extreme introversion) is likely more of a coping mechanism for our intense modern society rather than something that has happened throughout history. I’m not saying there haven’t always been introverts and extroverts, but I think the extreme nature of introverts and extroverts is due to the amount of stimulation in the culture–it feeds those who are drawn to it and shuts down those who can’t handle it. Since homeschoolers have opted out of a lot of that stimulation–they aren’t at school dealing with social circles, and they tend to be more cautious with media as well–I would think that the environment would help someone become more well-rounded, rather than extremely extroverted.

    I’m still working on kinks in my theory, though, so don’t quote me on that. πŸ˜‰

    With that said, I envy those who are in the middle. I desire more energy than I actually have, if that makes sense.

    Emily (Lift Up Your Hearts), Yes! There is no wrong answer here, and the author would love you just the way you are. πŸ˜‰ As far as having conflicting answers…I am curious if it is because you think about the questions too long? My husband does that, too!

  • Reply Lift Up Your Hearts January 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    This is so interesting! I’m not a big fan of psych stuff myself, mainly because I never test as any kind of normal person. Always my top answers are in conflict, and it’s distressing. I can see that on this issue though, there’s no way to be in conflict, just varying degrees of one or the other, and that is comforting. Ha! I definitely fall somewhere in between, probably more on the extrovert side.

  • Reply Ellen January 14, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Hey! I think this is very interesting, and I’ll probably be picking up the book at my local library if I can.

    I have a theory that homeschooling can create more introverted tendencies, and I’m all in favor of that. Actually, my theory is that homeschoolers learn that “normal” is not spending most of their time in large crowds of people, flowing in and around them, changing classes, etc., so they don’t need that to feel like their world is normal.

    I find that I get energy both from people and from being alone, and I appreciate time by myself more the less of it that I can count on.

    I have recently made friends with a gal who is an extreme extrovert. She has told me that she really doesn’t like to spend much time alone, and she tries to have a playdate every single day of the week. She craves time with people, and she complains heartily if she doesn’t have enough time with her friends. It can be very draining to be friends with her, and I’ve told her that. I thought I was extroverted until I met her! I think reading this book might give me more insight into her actually. =)

  • Reply Emily January 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I was going to mention the same book Kerry did – I’d read about it on someone’s blog a while back and it sounded like something from which I might benefit as one who has felt “left out” from groups and activities within the church.

    I don’t need to take a test to discover that I am definitely an introvert. Flocks of people congregating in one place tend to propel me to the far corners of the room with their energy. You’re familiar with the term wallflower?After such gatherings, I require several days of seclusion and rehabilitation with a lavender compress on my forehead.

    My husband is an introvert, too, though he seems better able to function without a daily dose of “quiet time.” Our daughter is an extremem extrovert – like my father-in-law (the court jester we call him) – but she is very good at becoming several people at once to entertain herself. πŸ™‚ One grown-up son is like her; another one is like me. I have to say I would probably have never met any of my neighbors were it not for Anna Rose’s outgoing personality!

    I’m checking today whether my library has this book so I can follow along. This will be fun as long as we don’t have to get together in person to discuss it.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Mystie, I know what you mean about teaming with an extrovert! My husband is not an extreme extrovert, but he is more extroverted than I am by far, and he is pretty much the only reason anything of consequence ever gets done around here.

    Glad to hear you and Rahime and Suzanne are getting the book! Spontaneous book clubs seem to work best. πŸ˜‰

    Kerry, I had not heard of that book, but that actually sounds more interesting to me as a topic than what I’m reading now. I have often thought, for instance, that the Small Group movement is classic extroversion.

    Of course, this is why the Church is a Body and we all need each other.

    KM, I’ll have to do a post for folks not reading along in the book. What I read last night detailed introversion as compared to other qualities, such as shyness. The other thing to remember is that introversion deals with where you get your energy rather than what you enjoy. I enjoy seeing friends, it is just that I’m drained afterwards. If you are like that, too, then you are probably at least somewhat introverted.

    As far as why you don’t throw more dinner parties, I can think of three reasons: First Son, First Daughter, and Second Daughter. In five years I guarantee you will throw more parties.

    Suzanne, My guess is that the author believes that ‘verts (both kinds) are born rather than made, that it is an innate quality which does not change. At the same time, she mentions that extroverts acquire introverted tendencies as they age. I am beginning to form my opinions on this. My knee-jerk instinct tells me that both extroverts and introverts will have certain sins which are peculiar (or at least more tempting) to them because of who they are, and I’m thinking through how to guard against such things personally, as well as aid my children as they grow.

    Rahime, I think the Bible has a different name for the Gift of Angst. When I was in seminary, Dr. Russell told me I would never really be comfortable with anything. So far, he has proven correct. πŸ˜‰ I love that you married an extrovert, and that he is good for you as well as good to you. Did you have trouble understanding each other in the beginning? We did.

    Jennifer, Extroverts are more than welcome to the table here. In fact, I think it’d be beneficial for you to set everyone straight on what it’s like to be an extrovert. I find it interesting that you are more introverted than prior (though I know you are not an introvert) because the book mentions this and I wonder if she’ll develop an answer as to why that happens. I, for one, love your craftiness. It makes me happy.

  • Reply Jennifer January 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Can an extrovert comment here? : ) I am interested to know more about this book…it is one that I would never pick up off the shelf! I do want to think more about the idea that most people fall along the spectrum of “vert”s. I have always considered myself a classic extrovert- I pick up energy and momentum as I am around people and experiencing new things. I will be honest with you- I want to know more about this idea of introverts having more depth while extroverts have more breadth. How, exactly? Is one more desirable than another? Can the two not co-exist? Now that I am a mother, I see myself more towards the middle of the scale (well, the middle right). If my husband is gone at night for work or church, I would rather turn on my George Winston music and do something silently crafty. I used to want to have a friend over to play! Not anymore. I guess introversion can correlate with maturity…I’m interested to read more of your posts to find out!

  • Reply Rahime January 13, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Brandy, you have angst about a great many things. πŸ˜‰

    I too requested it at my library, should be a few days before I get it.

    I could not imagine being more introverted than I am. I think ‘Chung finds it funny sometimes watching me think of ways to get out of leaving the house or interacting with people. We are basically on opposite sides of the spectrum…he’s completely energized by people, they exhaust me. After the Christmas/New Year holidays were over I think I needed four days to recuperate. I probably would have been happy to retreat into my own little world for a month if I could have.

  • Reply suzanne January 13, 2010 at 3:41 am

    I love your Dad’s comment and I have to agree with him.
    I had not heard of this book prior to your notes but I am requesting it through the library.
    I’m curious about whether they believe introverts are born or made, nature or nurture?
    I totally relate to your comments about needing a nap after being in a social situation.
    I have 2 children out of my 7 that are probably born extroverts but our family culture has maybe nurtured an introvert lifestyle.

  • Reply Kansas Mom January 13, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Hmm…I think I’m an introvert, though I love hosting dinner parties. Really love dinner parties and always wonder why we don’t do that more often…

    What I do know is this: if the girls don’t nap well and I miss my “quiet time” in the afternoon, I always feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff for the rest of the day. Does that count?

  • Reply Kerry January 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Along the same lines, but a different book (and a Christian one) – Introverts in the Church. Have you heard of this? I’ve been following th author’s blog and his book has just been recently launched. I’m hoping to get my hands on it sometime soon.

    Just an FYI from a fellow introvert.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 13, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Hi, Dad! πŸ˜€

  • Reply Anonymous January 13, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I believe an introvert is a fully developed individual, one who has reached full maturity and very comfortable with oneself, not needing others approval and enjoys long naps. Its genetic.

  • Reply Mystie January 13, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Oh, and the library is holding this book for me now. I’ll pick it up tomorrow. I have given up on Leisure and Poetic Knowledge for now….I probably have just enough brain for this type of book. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie January 13, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Excellent. I am a sucker for psychology, especially personality-test stuff. I need a skeptic, angsty foil. πŸ™‚ My husband provides ample skepticism. But I tell him it only proves his personality type. Only his type would be so obstinate. πŸ™‚

    I call myself a “social introvert.” All my best friends growing up were extroverts. I married an introvert and now have mostly introverted friends. It’s good and has been a blessing, but I have realized I team best with an extrovert — I do the thinking and planning, and then I prefer having someone else take it over and be the “on-stage” person. I realized that was true with my school planning. I would love to do the thinking and planning and then pass it off onto someone else to actually *do*. After all, *doing* involves interacting with these people. πŸ™‚

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